Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee


News and Public Opinion

Does news has any impact? There have been several researches on this. By and large there is a general agreement that news can and do impact and influence people to form an opinion. It may help generate an opinion or may reinforce it, if it is already there. However, scholars have varied and different opinions about the quantum of impact, and reasons thereof. There have been several studies on why some news have impact and some do not. Also why some persons get influenced and some do not.

In his book Sociology of News (2011), media sociologist Michael Schudson focuses on the sociological aspects of news and attempts to find out how news is created based on various sociological aspects. He also focuses on and analyses different forces and factors like economic, technological, political, cultural, organizational, which are playing key and influencing roles in shaping the news media today.

Public Opinion can be defined as “the collective opinion of many people on some issue, problem, etc., especially as a guide to action, decision, or the like”. Some scholars treat the ‘collective opinion’ as a synthesis of the views of all or a certain segment of society; others regard it as a collection of many differing or opposing views. One can thus derive some constructs of public opinion: a. majority opinion or belief, collectively formed b. some issues that concern the society, or at least a large section of society.

The concept of ‘Public Opinion’ has been there in the human civilisation since the concept of ‘society’ gained currency. It has always acted as a potent force in human society. However the quantum of potency depends on the concerned issue- how it has impacted people, nature of the concerned society, profile of its stake holders and the way it is governed.

The concept of public opinion as a political force was brought into the academic domain in 1922 by Walter Lippmans. Lippmans’s book titled “Public Opinion” introduced the idea of public opinion from democratic society’s point of view.

Social desirability is another key component to the formation of public opinion. Social desirability is the idea that people in general will form their opinions based on what they believe is the prevalent opinion of the social group they identify with. However, it could be reversed and a completely different public opinion could be formed if a. there is a strong opinion leader, b. there are strong and logical arguments; and c. it is backed by strong powers. In earlier times this ‘strong power’ used to be the State or powerful persons. For example in 19th century Sati Daha (widow burning) was the social custom. It was supported by the majority. However, Raja Rammohan Roy opposed it. He used Sambad Koumudi to propagate his views and rally public opinion. The opposing parties too used a newspaper: Samachar Chandrika to propagate their views. Rammohun Roy took the help of Governor General William Bentick, who eradicated the menace by outlawing the practice in 1829. Though Sambad Koumudi had to stop publication due to lack of patronage in October 1822, it was successful in creating an outrage against Sati Daha among the progressive and liberal Hindu.  But there is no denying of the necessity of a ‘strong power’ to reverse the established public opinion. In present times, many feel that media can be that ‘strong power’ which can finally turn the tide.

Nearly all scholars of public opinion, regardless of the way they may define it, agree that, in order for a phenomenon to count as public opinion, at least four conditions must be satisfied: (1) there must be an issue, (2) there must be a significant number of individuals who express opinions on the issue, (3) there must be some kind of a consensus among at least some of these opinions, and (4) this consensus must directly or indirectly exert influence.

Media can play important role in all four. First, media can identify or pick an issue and position it as an important one. Consider Agenda Setting Theory discussed earlier. Second, media can instigate, trigger and continue deliberation and dialogue on a particular issue. It can keep an issue alive.  By providing a wide platform it can broad base the deliberations. By putting in more information by way of additional reporting it can mainstream an issue. Third, it can help bring about a consensus by subtly suggesting, and fourth it can make the consensus exert influence.

Sports Climbing

Sport Climbing, a comparative new discipline has made its entry in the Jakarta Asian Games  2018 for the first time and will debut in Olympics 2020. A total of 121 athletes from 16 countries including India competed in this event. Indonesia bagged three gold medals. India had sent three athletes, who could win none.

Sports Climbing is not a well-known discipline in India. It involves the scaling of an artificial surface. It tests physical strength, agility and endurance of an athlete. What is unique about the sport is its ability to bring together in competition with true adventurers, which few sports are capable of doing.

This adventure sport started as a practice for Rock Climbing in the UK. Climbers wanted to train themselves to achieve tougher grades in climbing. In Europe, it was very difficult to practise for the whole year due to climatic conditions. Hence, climbers invented a way to practise at their homes by fixing pieces of woods and stones on the wall. This technique became common rapidly elsewhere in Europe. Slowly these structures were created by erecting walls exclusively for climbing and then the modern-day Climbing Walls evolved. In 1970’s Climbing Walls picked up very fast in Europe and a trend of climbing gyms came in.

In 1984 the first ever World Championship was organised at a small town of Bardonesia, Italy. This competition was organised on natural rocks. There were protests against the competition as it disturbed the flora and fauna. Therefore, UIAA, the global apex body for mountaineering, decided that such climbing competitions would hereafter be limited only to artificially-built structures.

Sport Climbing started in India with the setting up of a climbing wall at Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF), Delhi with a grant from JRD Tata. Ever since, the sport has made steady progress with over 150 walls built across the country and the sport percolating to places across the country.

Gour Chandra Mahapatra

Gour Chandra Mahapatra (born: 19 June 1915) freedom fighter, social activist and teacher died on 11 September at Bhadrak Hospital  at the age of 104. He was teaching in RCBL High School, Charampa where I was a student, a small town located near Bhadrak Railway Station. He used to teach us Odia Literature and at times History.
He was an unassuming man of short height probably 5 ft or 5 ft 1 inch. He used to wear khadi dhoti and kurta, mostly white or grey. His voice was feeble but he had a great sense of humour. He was public spirited and wanted to serve society in any which way. He used to ask us to clean our classrooms, which we did reluctantly.  He formed a group of volunteers called Gopabandhu Seva Sangha to help regulating the crowd during the Kali Puja. For some reasons- probably because I used to read Desh, the famed Bengali literary magazine, he used to like me. He took me into this Sangha as a student volunteer. The job: ask people to go in a line, follow rules, etc. I was given a batch to wear. It gave me immense satisfaction to wear that and try to regulate the crowd.
When I got a first class in matriculation he blessed me and told, jasaswi hua aau e school ku bhuliba nahi. (Earn Fame, and don’t forget your alma matter) He was very happy when I instituted an award at the school in the name of my grandmother. I don’t remember when I met him last- probably a decade and half ago.
The news of his demise did not come as a shock (he was over 104) but it definitely saddened me. He was a good soul. A compassionate teacher. We’ll miss him.

He wrote several books and poems. He was writing his autobiography Jetiki Mane Pade, (As far as I remember), which he could not finish.

Puja Season

In earlier times, puja season used to begin with the puja of Ganapati. It has been advanced, at least in Odisha. Puja season now begins with Janmastami and Khudurukuni (a local deity specially worshiped by the girls for the safety and wellbeing of brother) puja.

However as I write this column, Ganesh puja is just around the corner. Hundreds of idols of the deity are being sold. These idols- mostly made of plaster of Paris (PoP) are highly pollutant to the water bodies. If you absolutely have to buy an idol, please go for the clay ones, which will dissolve in the water without any causing any harm to the water body.

Tailpiece: The Clever One

A father told his three sons when he sent them to the university:

“I feel it’s my duty to provide you with the best possible education, and you do not owe me anything for that. However, I want you to appreciate it. As a token, each of you put Rs.1,00,000 into my coffin when I die.”


And so it happened. His sons became a doctor, a lawyer and a financial planner, each very successful and financially sound.


When their father’s time came and they saw their father in the coffin, they remembered his wish.


First, it was the doctor who put 200 X Rs.500 notes on the chest of the deceased.


Then, came the financial planner, who also put 50 x Rs2,000 there.


Finally, it was the heartbroken lawyer’s turn. He dipped into his pocket, took out his cheque book, wrote a cheque for Rs3,00,000, put it under his father’s body, took the Rs.2,00,000 cash and closed the coffin’s lid. Cash transaction is not good for the country, said the lawyer to his bewildered brothers.


He is presently serving as… well you know who this clever lawyer is.


In 1970 lyricist Niraj wrote a song, that Mukesh sang: Admi hun admi ko pyar karta hun

It took the Supreme Court 48 years to legalise it.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


The author is a journalist turned media academician. He lives in Central Odisha town Dhenkanal. He is presently editing a book on Gandhi as a Journalist and Editor along with Snehasis Sur. [email protected]


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